I was watching a soccer game last week and one of the coaches was yelling instructions, criticizing individual players and berating the overall team performance.

There was little encouragement to motive the team and they were already down 0-1, and after another 20 minutes the deficit had increased to 0-3.

The half time ‘pep talk’ was about how they needed to work harder, fight harder and listen more to the coach.


It was awful to watch. I coach for a local Athletic Association Soccer Club and my role is to help coach coaches to be better coaches. I watch this kind of behavior all too often and it depresses me because it is not coaching. It is a form of autocracy.

However, as I thought about what I was witnessing, it occurred to me that this is the very behavior I often see exhibited by so-called leaders in business. The VP’s, the Presidents and CEO’s.

I remember being at dreadful Business Plan meetings where each Region or Division Manager presented one plan after another to a management panel.

The management team took their lead from the Emperor and if there was a thumb down the gladiator was verbally ripped to shreds as if they were being killed in a Roman amphitheater. There was no external wounds or blood to behold, but inside, these gladiators were being destroyed.

This was leadership by fear or bullying. Similar behavior to what I had witnessed by the coach.

Coaching and leadership are very similar. They both require qualities that will bring out the best in their teams and will build morale and performance. It requires building confidence in people so they can make better decisions on their own rather than being told what do all the time.

So let’s look at what leaders can learn from successful sports coaches. Here are some key qualities:


Players are not robots, we can’t control them like a video game and nor should we try too. Similarly, we cannot as leaders be with our managers every minute of the day and we certainly should not require them to come to us for every decision. We need to empower them.


Success comes from sincerely wanting to get the best out of everyone and caring for them. There is always a better way to do things, there are solutions and the team will find them together and will win in the end, no matter the small setbacks.


For a team to succeed they need encouragement and permission to make mistakes. They need a field where they can experiment and know they won’t be dropped or fired if they fail at the first attempt. They want to hear the cheers of belief and faith in what they can achieve.


Good leaders and coaches praise in public and address problems in private. Players do not need to be told when they have done something wrong, at least rarely. They know. So find the things they do well and praise them. If they need to be told they messed up, then do it privately, not in front of the team.

We’ve probably all seen the types of coaches that stand on the sidelines and shout instructions, verbally abusing the players that make mistakes and shouting “shoot” every so often.

They attempt to micromanage from the side of the pitch. I would suggest we need to change this and give our people the trust and respect they deserve to enjoy themselves in the workplace and not feel they are puppets having their strings pulled from behind the stage, so we can all learn to become better players.

In everyday discussion we use so many sporting terms to describe situations, so let’s take this to the next level and use the best of our great coaches examples to make better leaders and managers.

About the Author:

I am the customer relationship mentor, who helps those responsible for their company’s most important customers, to build and maintain their customer relationships and keep them happy, so that they can protect & grow their business.